(CARICOM Secretariat Turkeyen, Greater Georgetown, Guyana) The Caribbean Community’s first Strategic Plan, driven by inputs and reviews by stakeholders across the Community, will be presented to CARICOM Heads for consideration at their 35th Annual conference in Antigua and Barbuda, July 1 -4 2014.
The Plan outlines a comprehensive development agenda for the Community, but emphasizes the need to target a selected set of specific outcomes within specified timeframes, with a focus on practical and achievable goals.
The decision to develop a strategic plan for the Caribbean Community was taken by the CARICOM Heads of Government at their Inter-sessional Meeting in Suriname in 2012. The leaders agreed that it was necessary to re-examine the future direction of the Community and the arrangements for carrying it forward which would include the role and function of the CARICOM Secretariat. The mandate from the Heads led to the recruitment of a Change Facilitation team, and the appointment of Change Drivers in Member states, to guide the process.
The Change Team canvassed the views of Caribbean people through a wide range of stakeholder consultations across the fifteen CARICOM Member States and in two of the Associate Members. There were also a regional Tele-Survey and a Youth On-Line Survey, as well as written submissions and key informant interviews.
A recurring message was the need for a refocussing, redirection and reorganization of the Community to move it forward and reignite the flames of regional integration. The discussions pointed to the need to aggressively promote regional integration and the CARICOM Agenda, and address growth and development by tapping the sectors with potential for growth. Gaps were identified in intra-regional transportation, human capacity development, production and trade, food security and youth development.
Dr. Ralph E. Gonsalves, Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Chairman of CARICOM, speaking during the consultations about the importance of developing a strategic plan that will enhance integration and the capacity of CARICOM States, noted that it was;
“…evident to all reasonable persons of discernment that our region would find it more difficult by far to address its immense current and prospective challenges unless its governments and peoples embrace strongly a more mature, more profound regionalism. That ought to be a noise in the blood, an echo in the bone of our Caribbean civilization.”
Other participants in the consultations were also of the view that regional integration and CARICOM itself were extremely important to the development of Member States. One person even opined that “If we did not have CARICOM, we would have to invent it.”
The engagement of staff at the CARICOM Secretariat was another crucial dimension of the consultation phase. The Secretary General and Members of the Change Facilitation Team, outlined what the process entailed and some of the issues raised in the public consultations. Staff also got the opportunity to voice ideas on the way forward for CARICOM and the Secretariat and were very vocal regarding challenges being faced.
Several drafts of the strategic plan have been prepared, reviewed and updated. They were presented to the Community Council of Ministers as well as to the Twenty-Fifth Intersessional Meeting of the Conference of the CARICOM Heads of Government held in March 2014. Meetings were also conducted with the Change Drivers and Community institutions to review the document.
A review of the current draft of the plan will be conducted at a meeting of the Community Council of Ministers on Monday 30 June before the final version is presented to the Heads for consideration